Aconcagua Climb: Basic Training

Climb the Aconcagua is, among other things, a big personal and team satisfaction. It’s for sure that if you want to enjoy the experience of mountain climbing, much depends on your previous training. The chances of success can be highly improved and also your safety margin, so as to avoid mountain illnesses or accidents. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that an adequate preparation and acclimation to climb Aconcagua are fundamental to have the necessary strength in order to avoid exhaustion during the journey.

To be honed for the ascent, it is essential to undergo previous training by climbing different size mountains, slowly increasing altitude. You will need to build a high degree of strength endurance, high-altitude tolerance, and strong cardiovascular conditioning. Just because you exercise regularly (four to six times per week) does not mean you have the conditioning needed to reach the highest point in South America. Plenty of people who have the endurance to run a marathon or compete in triathlons fail to summit high-altitude peaks. Pure cardiovascular fitness is simply not enough. Focus on building the physical conditioning necessary to ascend 3,500 feet of vertical elevation gain on successive days carrying 45-50 pounds.

Prioritize your training efforts in the following way, assuming that you are in good health and injury-free:

1. Climbing conditioning – pack-loaded uphill hiking, walking, and stair climbing
2. Strength training for the lower body and core
3. Cardiovascular training, including both aerobic and anaerobic workouts without pack weight
4. Flexibility training
5. Psychological Conditioning

Climbing Conditioning

1. Training to develop energy with activities such as running, bicycle, sky or walking at a quick step. Rotate routines to prevent injuries due to excess of exercise. Also swimming is an excellent form of training because it does not put stress upon your joints. Use whatever varied surface terrain (i.e. gravel beds, sand dunes, river banks) you have access to. If you live where it is relatively flat, go up and down stairs or train on an inclined treadmill or stairmaster.

2. Progressive training with weight provides resistance. Increase gradually your pack weight until you feel comfortable carrying a 50 pound pack. It improves the anaerobic metabolism: the principal process that feeds the work of the muscles, which is feed by the carbohydrates stored in our body, so that they don’t need to metabolize additional oxygen. Do not run with weight.

3. Training as much as possible, climbing mountains, spending the whole day, or more in an excursion. To be a good climber, to be able to climb high mountains you must train. You begin with small mountains and a medium backpack and increase both gradually.

In early season, start with a hike that gains up to 2000 elevation over 5-7 miles round trip, and carry a 20- pound pack; each hike try adding three to five pounds until you are comfortable with a 50-pound pack, then begin increasing the total elevation gain and mileage. When you can gain 3,000 feet while carrying a 50-pound pack, start decreasing rest breaks and increasing speed on each conditioning workout. A month from your climb, you should be comfortable hiking on successive days with at least 40 pounds on one of those outings.

Hint: when carrying a rucksack while descending, walking, or climbing down-hill, try carrying a bit less in your rucksack in order to save your knees. Many trainers advise carrying water bottles up the hill then emptying them at the top so your rucksack is lightened for the trip down

Two training techniques that will be useful for high-altitude trekking are:

1) interval training: To include interval training, find a steep hill or sets of stairs that will allow you to climb steadily for several minutes. Push as hard as you can going up, then recover coming down, and repeat for anywhere from 20-45 minutes depending on how close to your climb you are. Gradually add weight to your pack (no more than 10% per week) until you can carry 40 pounds the entire time. If possible, participate in as many hikes at altitude -and in winter conditions- as you possibly can to learn how your body reacts in extreme cold and above 13,000 feet elevation.

2) back to back training: This involves hiking with your target climb pack weight (50 pounds) on the first day for at least 3,000 ft gain, and a somewhat lighter pack (30-35 pounds) for greater mileage or elevation gain on the second day to simulate the back-to-back requirements of long days on your trip. This will not only be helpful physically but also prepare you psychologically for the challenge of repeat high-effort days without any recovery days in between.

Strength Conditioning

Training with free weights, bands, a backpack, bodyweight exercises, or gym machines will help you build overall strength, particularly in the core (lower back and abdominals), upper back and shoulders, and legs.
Utilising both gym equipment and the great outdoors will provide a more balanced exercise programme. You should try to accomplish at least half of your workouts outside. This could include walking and running (On stairs and hills too) and cycling. Hillwalking and climbing with a pack weighing is essential. If you don’t have hills, why not go for stairs, bleachers, stadiums, even the stairways in tall buildings? Don’t forget to spend time directly working the muscles of the legs, back and shoulders, and remember that your own body weight can be just as effective as weights, or machines.

Developing strength in your upper back and shoulders will help you with such tasks as carrying your pack and using trekking poles effectively. The calves, hips, quads, hamstrings and glutes are all involved in ascending and descending steep, hard-packed snow and ice slopes, and a great degree of strength endurance is required in all areas of the legs and hips.

When starting any strength conditioning program focus on compound exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups, dips, pull-ups, rows, dead lifts, bench presses, pushups, and overhead presses.

In the beginning phase of strength conditioning, focus on building a foundation for harder workouts. As you continue to train, you will shift focus to building strength. Four to six weeks before your climb, shift your training to focus on strength endurance to turn the newly gained strength into greater strength endurance. Each training phase should vary the weight used, repetitions completed, number of sets, and rest intervals. Regardless of training phase, always be sure you maintain proper form in order to prevent injury or strain.

Cardiovascular Conditioning

When first beginning a cardiovascular training program, begin with three weekly workouts of 30-45 minutes of sustained activity at a moderate intensity, and build to 4-5 aerobic sessions of sustained effort for at least 45-60 minutes. Be sure to include a 5-10 minute gentle warm-up before working at your target heart rate for the day (for most workouts, choose a level of exertion that allows you to connect a few words together in a phrase, but leaves you feeling comfortably tired at the end of the workout), and cool down with 5-10 minutes of appropriate stretching of the muscles you use most in your activity, including lower back, calves, hamstrings, hips and quadriceps.
While biking, rowing and swimming are aerobic options for the earliest stages of training, be sure as you get closer to your trip that you include aerobic training activities that load the spine and legs the same way that hiking will. Appropriate options include trail running, doing stair stepping or step mill training, jogging or walking up and down hills.

Flexibility Conditioning

Be sure to include at least 5-10 minutes of targeted stretching following every workout, specifically for the hamstrings, glutes, hips, calves, forearms, lower back and quadriceps. If you have any areas of concern early season, add emphasis to making sure you have normal range of motion about all your joints. This will become even more important as you add weight and distance to your conditioners.

Psychological Conditioning

To be mentally fit for the expedition. Before starting, it is necessary to understand that many times you are going to feel uncomfortable, perhaps you are going to be for a couple of days in a basic tent with anything to do, waiting for the storm to end, surely you will start to feel little symptoms of height. So, you will have to be convinced that it is worth to have left behind the comforts of home in order to experience an unique challenge, in a difficult mountain through patience and determination. If you don t have the ability to do this you won t be successful.

You must also know yourself to realize the difference between pushing yourself and acute mountain sickness, pulmonary or cerebral edema. For the safety of the team, the chief guide will make a final decision on who needs a rest day, who continues to ascend or who descends.

Be sure to include at least one recovery day per week and listen closely to your body. Take the final week to taper or gradually reduce intensity and volume of training so that by the time you leave for your trip you are well rested and physically and psychologically up to the challenge.

Aconcagua Tips

The South Wall, the Great Challenge of America

The Normal Route: 6,962 Meters, Objetive Fulfilled

The Normal Route: Summit Insight

The Normal Route: Above: 5,000

The Normal Route of the Pioneers

Activities of the Aconcagua Provincial Park and Permits

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